The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning for people who have hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers created control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
For kids in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed compared to children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is just the most recent in a long line of research endeavors that demonstrate the advantages of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy settings, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study evaluated the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, challenging each to identify speech syllables through a variety of background noise levels.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was substantial.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t simply end there. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This once again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a profound impact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Perhaps the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the gateway for extending his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished pieces came during his last 15 years.